You don’t often see “Starland Vocal Band” and “historical context” in the same sentence. You’re more likely to see the quartet paired with “saccharine vortex.” But I like a challenge.
Soft rock firmly established itself in the mid-70s, growing out of the seeds planted by country-rock & the singer-songwriter movement earlier in the decade (along with a bit of sunshine pop and bubblegum). After nearly 10 years of war, protests, assassinations, political shenanigans, and struggling against The Man, the Groovy Generation was understandably exhausted. Many had settled down into a comfortable life by now and wanted some comfortable music for accompaniment.
They had fought battles to a soundtrack of psychedelia and heavy rock and progressive rock and a bevy of protest songs in every genre. Even the singer-songwriters were heavy and introspective much of the time. It was time for something a little less nutritious.
The hip word of the time was “mellow” — and everybody wanted some. The kids could have all the punk and New Wave they wanted. Their parents and older siblings just needed to chill for a minute. They needed to relax and have fun by wearing clothes in colors not of this earth and listening to music that was the aural equivalent of a hot tub. Hence, the rise of both soft rock and disco in the mid to late 70s.
When Bill and Tammy Danoff formed Starland Vocal Band in 1975 they had already briefly tasted sweet success, co-writing the smash hit “Take Me Home, Country Roads” with John Denver a few years earlier. During the process of thinking up songs for their new vocal venture, Bill went to lunch at a popular restaurant in his hometown of Washington DC. The name of the appetizers section of the menu caught his eye — it was called Afternoon Delights. He now had a possible title but the song wouldn’t come easily, taking another six months to write in fits and starts. It turned out to be worth the effort. (By the way, others have been inspired by menus: Paul Simon’s “Mother And Child Reunion,” for instance, comes from a Chinese dish.)
In the summer of 1976, the single of “Afternoon Delight” hit #1 on the US pop chart and garnered three Grammy nominations. Starland Vocal Band famously won the Grammy for Best New Artist only to find themselves never reaching the Top 40 again.
So grab some sunshine (and whatever else may be close at hand) and mellow out.
Are you familiar with Arrested Development?
Somewhat familiar. We watched the first season. Do you ever have something that you should like based on cast, or theme, or material, but for inexplicable reasons it just doesn’t click with you? That’s what happened with Arrested Development.
Ah. That happens. I don’t remember where in the series the “Afternoon Delight” scene comes in but I believe it was after the first season. If you haven’t seen it then I’ll spare you the details. Don’t want to ruin the song for you!